My sister is on a last chance list. When a shelter has a dog that will be euthanized, they send out the alarm to the no kill shelters who in turn, if they don’t have room, start calling people on the last chance list. My sister has three last chance dogs. Her soft spot is pit bulls and they are all part pit.
Nina has three legs. She was thrown out of a window. I don’t know Nina very well but I’ve been told she has figured out how to get down on her belly to stalk the squirrels in the backyard.
George was a stray for over a year. He is part pit and part something enormous, mastiff perhaps. He had only been in Carrie’s house for a few days, when she was invaded by out of state family-six of us. The next day there was a blizzard, trapping us all in the house. George went from living outside on his own, to the chaos of sharing space with ten people, ten strangers. Not for one moment, was he skittish or uneasy. He found a spot under the kitchen table and there he stayed. Once in awhile, we’d hear a sigh of contentment. George was home and he knew it.
A few weeks ago, she got another call. A 7 month old puppy found abandoned in the Bronx, named Sandy. She had kennel cough and mange when she arrived at the shelter in Connecticut. When Carrie was finally able to pick her up and bring her home, she sent me a picture of her in the car, sitting up, looking out the window. I will let this picture speak for itself. It is haunting. This is a puppy who has known not a minute of kindness. It is quite possible she was born to an already abandoned mother. She looks old. She looks bewildered. She looks stoic and resigned to whatever the fates have in store for her. She does not yet know that she is a very lucky puppy, but then she never had the chance to be a puppy. It has not been the easiest of adjustments. Both she and George were strays so meal time has to be in separate rooms. Food is survival and that memory must die hard. They have re-named her Wanda. It’s a good name-sturdy and secure. Sandy’s past is filled with hunger, pain and terror. Wanda’s future is filled with love, companionship, a food bowl of her very own, and a spot on the bed.
God bless the people who work the phones in these shelters and those who transport these dogs to shelters that can take them, and, most of all, God bless the people who answer those last chance phone calls.
THE MENU: HOT DOGS ON THE GRILL, SALAD, LEEK BREAD PUDDING, S’MORES
Leek Bread Pudding adapted from the Ad Hoc Cookbook
- 2 cups 1/2″ thick slices leeks – green & white green parts only
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 cups 1″ cubes crustless brioche or french bread
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded Comte’ or Emmentaler cheese
Put leeks in a large bowl of tepid water and swish so any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Lift leeks from the water and place in a medium saute’ pan over medium high heat. Season with salt to taste and cook, stirring often for about five minutes until soft. Lower the heat to medium low, stir in the butter to emulsify and add fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover with a parchment lid (a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of your pan with a hole to vent steam in the middle). Cook, stirring every 10 minutes until leeks are very soft – about 30 minutes.
Spread the bread cubes on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until dry and golden. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the leeks and toss with the bread cubes. Add the thyme and chives. Leave the oven on.
Whisk the eggs in another bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread half the leeks and croutons on top. Sprinkle with another 1/4 cup of cheese. Spread remaining leeks and croutons over the top and top with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour enough of the egg, cream and milk mixture over the top to cover the leeks and croutons. Let soak for 15 minutes. Add the remaining liquid and top with the last 1/4 cup of cheese.
Bake for 90 minutes until the custard is set and the top is brown and bubbling.